jay's old blog

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Supported Platforms – End Users



[Ongoing series of blog posts to inform potential developers, users and (hopefully investors) about this new app ecosystem I am architecting, designing, developing and deploying. More details at this page]

An ecosystem is worthless if people cannot use it on the platform of their choice. A few years ago (like say 2 years ago) deciding on the supporting end user platforms was tricky. The major platforms were windows desktop, windows touch enabled stuff – windows 8 and windows 10, then there was windows phone, the web browser on desktop, the web browser on mobiles, the web browser on tablets, and then of course android on phone, android on tablet and lastly, ios on phone and ios on tablets.

Phew! That is a lot of platforms. That would drive any developer crazy! It sure did drive me crazy.

Today, and during the year in which this blog post was written, I would say the tech revolution has reached its satisfactory conclusion. That’s good because, now things are simpler. As I continue my work on project TD, I must confess that life is a lot simpler now. With that knowledge, I know now that to reach to the widest audience, I only have to reach out to the following three platforms – Web Browser on desktop, android on phone, and iOS on phone.

Web Browser on desktop

At the end of the day, any machine with a keyboard plugged into it can run a web browser. I recently wrote about the appeal of web development. Web browsers have reached that maturity where they can support full-fledged applications. They also work well with touch enabled devices. A few years ago, I would have no choice but to build a traditional windows desktop application, the touch enabled and so called ‘modern’ or ‘metro’ apps for windows 8 / windows 10, and do the same for Mac and Linux.

Now, I don’t need to target any of these desktop platforms with native apps. The browser based app will take care of all this. Imagine the amount of effort I am able to save here. More importantly, we are now entering an era where a lot of people no longer think running applications in a browser is odd or weird. For someone who grew up in the 90s and early 00s, not using native desktop applications is odd. However, for those who grew up in the late 00s and onwards, using web app comes naturally. That means, having zero native apps will not hurt my ecosystem if it should go wide.

Android and iOS on phone

Intentionally, I have decided to leave out tablets entirely out of the picture. Perhaps, five years ago, we thoughts that tablets might go mainstream and even replace PCs and smartphones. Unfortunately, that did not happen, and I pretty much concluded my own observations in this post. Just this morning, I found out that the iPad version of the Instagram app is but a blown up iPhone app. This does not imply that a large company such as Instagram is lazy. On the contrary, it is a reflection of reality. Tablets are not a major platform and any time/money spent on it is not going to give returns.

Besides, phones have been getting bigger and have become ubiquitous. Thanks to improving infrastructure, it is not that expensive to download apps anymore. Phones also have better SD card support now, and most of them come with decent onboard storage as well. All in all, the mobile platforms have achieved a certain maturity which I should exploit.

Previously, I was of the opinion that I don’t wish to touch iOS. I assumed that developing for the apple platform can be pretty expensive. I also assumed that there are very few iPhones running around. However, I re-did some research, and see if perhaps the passage of time has changed the situation. I found out that at least some things have changed. A cheap Mac and a cheap iPhone can be obtained at prices slightly more than android development gear. The developer license continues to be expensive but that is a business cost. Further, I noticed that there are a small chunk of folks who are indeed using the older generation iPhones such as the 5c and 6, so perhaps there is indeed a user base to target.

All things considered, I decided that when it comes to mobile, I should target both android and iOS.

While I am writing about this, I must also mention the state of mobile optimization of the web apps, which are anyway being developed. I would say no. I am not going to go out of my way to optimize the above mentioned web apps to work on the small screen. Folks who want to use the site on their mobile browser should simply install the available mobile apps. Either that or live with poorly optimized web app. That, I am afraid, would be there choice.

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